The straight-ahead rock trio set their sights on Santos this Wednesday.
[Updated] “We kind of just throw it together really quickly and try not to think about it too much,” says guitarist Frankie Broyles of his band’s songwriting process. Broyles, bassist/lead singer Philip Frobos, and recently added touring drummer Doug Bleichner make up the Atlanta-based trio Omni. They released their second album, Multi-Task, in September via Trouble In Mind Records. This Wednesday, they play Santos, with support from Walter TV, Video Age, and special guest White Reaper.
Broyles’ statement makes sense when you listen to Omni’s songs, which are short, punchy, and characterized by bursts of energy that sound like synaptic firing in microtime. But the tracks feel so squeaky clean and free of fluff that it’s hard to believe there’s no editing involved. As a writer prone to throat-clearing and run-on sentences, I get jealous when I hear artists with Omni’s level of control.
“I think it has a lot to do with gaining experience,” says Broyles. “In those early bands, I definitely was like I don’t know what I’m doing! Should this be like this, or should I do this? And after that, I think we both reached a point where we were like Well I’m just gonna do what I think sounds good, what I wanna do, and not really worry about anything else.”
Those “early bands” he’s referring to are Broyles’ first group, Balkans, which he and his friends formed back in grade school, and Frobos’ previous project, Carnivores, another Atlanta-based pop/punk ensemble. Broyles also played briefly with Atlanta’s best-known shoegazers, Deerhunter, appearing on their 2013 foray into lo-fi garage rock, Monomania.“It was a pretty crazy experience,” he says of his time with the band. “I got to travel a lot, and play all these amazing shows.” Ultimately, though, he realized he needed to move on. “Being in that band, there’s really no time to do anything else,” he remembers. “I stopped doing it so I could focus on writing music, either with Omni or just by myself.”
Broyles released his first solo EP, Slow Return, this past May, a tasteful dollop of soft, mildly experimental indie pop. It lacks the intense, frenetic energy of his work with Omni, but the songs have the same satisfying feeling of cleanliness and completion.
Slow Return is solid, but Omni is where Broyles’ talents truly shine. Together, he and Frobos create refreshingly straightforward rock and roll, free of pretension or digression. It feels far removed from Broyles’ fuzzy freakouts with Balkans (or on Monomania) or Frobos’ slow-burning dream pop with Carnivores.
“When Philip and I are writing together, sometimes different moods kind of meld into one, and make something that I wouldn’t have gone for if I was just writing by myself,” says Broyles. “We’re always surprised by how the songs turn out.” Listening to Multi-Task and Deluxe (Omni’s debut), which were labeled by the critical community as “post-punk” before anyone ever pressed play, I shared the band’s surprise. I didn’t hear the references to the canon that other music journalists were inferring. Initially, I thought this was due to my own ignorance, but it may have had more to do with Omni’s actual intention.
“I never thought of us as being post-punk,” says Broyles. “I don’t think we sound like a post-punk band, but I don’t really know what post-punk bands sound like. I mean, I know what post-punk music is, but I feel like we take just as much inspiration from other things.” When I press him on these “other things,” he’s reticent, as artists often are when journalists naiively ask them about their influences. “I grew up listening to a lot of jazz,” he offers. “My mom is from New Orleans, so we always listened to a lot of Louis Armstrong, a lot of ‘60s oldies radio, stuff like that.” It’s not much to go on, and does little to explain Omni’s sound, which feels familiar and utterly original all at once. Its defining feature is Broyles’ lively guitar playing, which generally stands in the front of the mix, casting a shadow over Frobos’ endearingly monotone drawl.
Omni defies the trope of the traditional rock band with an egomaniacal lead singer who rules with an iron fist. The songwriting is a group effort, and Broyles says he and Frobos regularly edit each other’s parts to help them fit better with the song as a whole.
“I guess that to the person watching our band, Philip would be the frontman, because he’s the singer,” says Broyles. “But within the band, we don’t really think of anyone as being the frontman. It’s the three of us as a group.”
This egalitarian approach probably goes a long way toward Omni's ability to produce such well-constructed, compact songs with so little self-editing. If they gel as well in person as they do in the studio, their show on Wednesday will be a real treat.
Updated October 18, 9:55 a.m.
The "special guest" to tonight's show at Santos has been named since the story was first posted. That band is White Reaper.